Euronews journalist, Stefan Grobe, discussed the impact of the results of the US midterm elections with Charles Kupchan, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington.
Grobe: Was there anything that surprised you in these elections?
Kupchan: I don’t think the outcome really diverged from what the polls were saying. The Republicans were expected to take the House – they did so. The Democrats were expected to hold on to the Senate – they did so. I think the key question right now is, how will the President and how will the Republicans deal with divided government? Will they come together and try to govern a country that desperately needs good governance or are we facing a couple of years of gridlock until the 2012 election?
Grobe: Tuesday’s votes were largely a referendum against Washington, President Obama and the politics of status quo. To what extent were they also an endorsement of Republican policies?
Kupchan: I would say that the vote was really more of a protest vote, than it was a vote for a clear well-defined Republican agenda. I think that, after Obama won, everybody said ‘Aha, the Democrats are going to be in a position of dominance for years to come’. Now we are already hearing ‘The Republicans are taking back the country’. I think what we are looking at is an America that is deeply divided. Centrists are voting for the Democrats one day, the Republicans the next day. By 2012, they may swing back in the other direction.
Grobe: The presumptive House Speaker, John Boehner, now has one of the toughest jobs in Washington because the Republicans will have to act. Are they going to come up with a real plan or will they simply rock Obama’s boat?
Kupchan: It’s too soon to tell. We need to see what the Republicans do with the leadership of the House. I think it’s fair to say that thus far, the Republicans have generally been the party of ‘No’. They did not come out and articulate a clear vision. Neither did the Tea Party or the leadership of the Republicans in the House and the Senate. So we don’t know what exactly is up their sleeve. We do know that they have said quite clearly that one of their goals for leadership is to make sure that President Obama is a one-term president. That does not sound good. That would suggest that we can expect the Republicans to play the role of spoiler, not a party that is looking for common ground with the White House. Again, it’s too soon to tell, but I do fear that we are headed toward a prolonged period of gridlock, not a new era of bipartisan cooperation.
Grobe: You have mentioned the Tea Party. Some European editorialists have called them ignorant. Will the Tea Party have any impact on policies over the next two years?
Kupchan: I think they definitely will. I mean, we have seen some Tea Party candidates do well, we’ve seen the Tea Party affect the Republican agenda. The Tea Party doesn’t come out of nowhere, they hail from a long tradition in American politics, which is libertarian, which views the government as an entity that in general needs to be cut back.
Grobe: Last question, Mr Kupchan – does the American reshuffle create any new opportunities internationally?
Kupchan: I think the main impact of the election will be to make it more difficult for Obama to act, both at home and abroad. He may have his hands tied in the Senate on arms control. He may not have the same leeway that he had before on engagement with Russia, with Cuba and the Middle East, because of opposition from the Republicans. So I would say the main message to Europeans and others is, there could potentially be somewhat of a political vacuum globally for the next couple of years.